How it is: Chapter 18

“Wait, so you’ve been eating take out this whole time?” Justin eyed Timmy as the two were eating lunch together at a small diner in Chelsea. “Yeah. I don’t want to bump into Valerie or Tarou.” He sighed. “You’re still avoiding both of them?!” “Well, yeah. Since a ton of people hate me now, it’s hard to leave my dorm without getting death glares.” He sighed. Even when he goes to class, Timmy would face plenty of angry and dirty looks and people whispering threats at him. He did not feel safe whatsoever. Between the entire school of performing arts, Asian community, and the LGBTQIA community being mad at him, there were only few people who would treat Timmy mercifully. And by mercifully, Timmy meant outright ignore him. “You really need to talk to Tarou. I know you’re getting stressed, but avoiding him is only making the situation worse. A lot worse.” Justin wanted Timmy to just talk to Tarou, not even to mend their friendship, but to help his current living situation. To be in constant fear and hiding, that was no way to live. “I… I’ll think about it.” Timmy sighed. He could tell that Justin was getting visibly worried, and Misaki’s words were just ringing through his head. The way he was acting, it was causing those around him to worry. It was a cycle that he needed to break. He needed to stop acting in such a way that made others so stressed and concerned. He did not want to be a source of discomfort to those around him.

Walking to the curb, Timmy called an Uber for himself. He was feeling nervous at this point. Thinking about Tarou made Timmy feel like his stomach was twisting itself into knots. “You Timmy?” The driver, a gruff middle aged man looked through the window of the car. “Yeah.” He nodded shyly before getting into the passenger seat. Driving back, all Timmy could think about was hiding his face and avoiding being seen by anyone. ACU has made active efforts of alienating him, ranging from Alice ignoring him when they see each other in the engineering building to Gary glaring at him through the windows of the dining hall. At this point, Timmy did not feel safe. Nor did he know what to do. It was either live in fear and hiding from judgement, or confront Tarou, something he did not feel comfortable doing. He was afraid about what Tarou would do to him. Everything Tarou was saying and doing, it was unexpected. The Japanese boy Timmy grew up with, he was this young, unassuming, and loyal person. Since when did somebody so reserved and calm become so sporadic, overbearing, and dramatic in general? The Taiwanese boy sighed to himself, keeping his eyes to the floor. There was a looming anxiety bubbling in him. “What the hell do I do?” It was a question he had been asking himself for weeks now. And the answer was somewhere behind one of two really hideous doors. Timmy started to ponder why Tarou’s sexuality mattered so much to him. A large portion of this discomfort stemmed from all of those times Tarou insisted he was not gay, and how it felt like he was being lied to by his own best friend.

“He’s gay!” Two male eighth graders were mocking an already teary-eyed sixth grade Tarou. The 11 year-old was being made fun of for being on the effeminate side. “I’m not!” The chubby Japanese youth whined, trying to defend himself verbally, albeit poorly. No matter what the boy did, the two bullies continued to taunt him, kicking dirt at the younger’s face. “Hey, cut it out.” Timmy growled, walking up to them. He noticed his best friend laying on a tree, sobbing quietly as the two older boys continued to spew insults. “Oh, look, Glenn! It’s his boyfriend!” One of them laughed. “Yeah, Brent! What’s he going to do? Kiss us?” Glenn returned. “No. But you guys can kiss my ass!” Timmy shouted, kicking Brent straight in the stomach. “Oomph!” The 13 year-old groaned as he fell over. “You little punk-” Before Glenn could finish his sentence, Timmy punched him in the throat and proceeded to kick him in the groin. The older boy was on the floor, sputtering in fetal position on the grass. “Do that to my best friend again, and you’ll get worse treatment next time.” Timmy glared at the two before turning to Tarou. “What did they do to you? Are you hurt?” The boy wiped his tears and shook his head sheepishly. “They were just calling me gay.” He sighed. “But you’re not, right?” The Taiwanese boy looked at him, concerned. “No, I’m not.” Tarou shook his head. Little did neither of them know at the time, Tarou’s interest in males did not spur until high school. “What the hell happened here?!” Valerie ran up to the two of them, noting the two half-conscious teenagers laying in the dirt. “Timmy was protecting me. They were being bullies and calling me names.” Tarou admitted, half afraid that Valerie the hall monitor would tell on them. “Oh geez.” She shook her head. “Look, you’re my friends, so I’ll let this one pass. But please, Timmy, no more karate-chopping people.” She crossed her arms. “Now hurry up and get out of here. We can’t have you at the scene of the crime.” Thanks, Val!” The two quickly left the area. “And you two, if you try to say anything, I’ll tell the principal that you guys were trying to sexually harass me!” She frowned at Brent and Glenn. “We are going to say that this was you two trying to breakdance and failing epically.”

“Personally, I don’t know how I feel about gay rights and gay marriage.” Timmy admitted. He was in ninth grade now, and in his social studies class. They were discussing equality in gender roles and the topic of gay marriage arose. Timmy and Tarou were together, having a side conversation from the class’s discussion in the back of the room. “What do you mean?” Tarou raised his eyebrow skeptically. At this point, the Japanese boy was already slim and lanky, his features appearing more photogenic in general. This discussion was clearly unsettling to the aspiring model, who was just beginning to discover his sexual interests in men. After his first photo shoot, Tarou had been sneaking peeks at several of his male co-workers, and he found himself entranced by their physiques. “Well, I think that there’s a reason a man and woman can get married. And that stems from the fact that they can have children together. There’s no reason for same sex marriage, because these couples can’t have kids anyways, so why do they need marriage?” Timmy’s logic was that marriage was needed for parents to feel even more attached to each other and their children. Tarou was dumbfounded. That sort of logic made zero sense to the Japanese boy. But he could not bring himself to say anything at that point in time. But it was at moment that Tarou knew coming out to Timmy was not a possibility. He felt uncomfortable knowing that somebody could think in such a narrow-minded way. Timmy did notice Tarou’s discomfort, but could not take back the impact of his words. That was the way he was taught to feel. The Taiwanese boy always tried to rationalize emotions with logic and practicability, even when there were feelings and sensations beyond science and reason.

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How it is: Chapter 17

That same day, Tarou was at work with Misaki, talking about the former’s current living situation after they finished another photo shoot. “So you two aren’t living together anymore?” The older model frowned. She was surprised to hear that Timmy had problems with Valerie and Tarou. “Yeah, and that’s why I’m living on Valerie’s floor at the moment.” The male model nodded. “I see, I see.” Had Timmy not been such a close friend of her boyfriend’s, Misaki would have most likely used her one favor from the yakuza to call a hit on the Taiwanese boy. Just the thought of somebody being that immature, inept, and cowardly, he was asking for at least, a slap to the face. Shaking off her dark, violent thoughts, the older girl looked at her friend. “I think Timmy is a complete and utter coward. Just the way he treated Valerie, it was sickening. Then to hear from you that he called her a skank or slut or whatever, that was uncalled for. And that’s just his beef with Valerie. The way he treated you was completely rude. It was homophobic of him to say that your sexuality made him uncomfortable. It’s not like you made advances on him, did you?” She looked at him, nervously. If Tarou had indeed acted with romantic intentions, then this situation could get very ugly. “I saw him more as a little brother or a son, but for him, he only saw my sexuality when that became a topic. He could not shake the thought or fear that I might be romantically interested in him. And his uneasiness towards it, it made me question my own feelings towards him as well. But seeing him act that way, it just reaffirms that this is why I saw him as a little brother or a son. It’s because he is less emotionally mature than I am.” Tarou summarized. “I see. And it makes sense. Him not knowing how to react to and live with somebody like you, it caused him to act really irrationally.” The reason why Misaki was able to make such detailed observations was because she was a psychology major in college, before deciding to become a model full time and abandon the psychology path entirely. There was something about being able to observe others and understanding their intentions and interpretations of life that piqued her interest.

After heading out of the agency, Misaki and Tarou were having dinner at Tarou’s favorite restaurant, Ngam; Tarou and Misaki both adored the chef, who was a model herself, and just enjoyed the elegant takes on Thai cuisine served at the establishment. Tarou sighed, feeling a little uneasy. Even though he was at one of his favorite restaurants, he was not feeling hungry. He was worried about what was happening to Timmy. “Hey, what’s wrong?” Misaki looked at him, visibly concerned. Tarou had been spacing out for a while. It was unlike Tarou, especially when he was a former fat kid, to leave a meal virtually untouched. “I’m just out of it. I’m still getting over what Timmy said about Valerie and how he outed me like that.” Tarou sighed. He did not think that anything could hurt him. But he wrong. Timmy’s words hurt. Seeing her friend this way, Misaki could not bring herself to feign smiling anymore. “Look, you two need to talk. Do you want me to tell Justin about the whole situation?” She offered. Tarou shook his head. “He’s not ready. I don’t think he’ll ever be ready to be confronted. He’s a fucking coward.” The model scowled. He was angry at this point. What did he ever do to deserve this treatment? It was not his fault he was born bisexual. Timmy’s immaturity, it was just ridiculous. Tarou was in disbelief that somebody he looked up to, somebody he grew up with, could have come along so little in life. Slowly, Tarou began to piece together the dots: his involvement with Timmy, or specifically, his smother of Timmy, had caused the Taiwanese boy to become so sheltered and immature. All of this time I tried to protect him, I only caused him harm. He started to realize. Yet, Tarou did not resent himself. How was he supposed to know that this sort of overbearing behavior was okay? He was still a student himself. He had a lot left to learn.

“Hey, what’s wrong,, babe?” Justin looked at a distraught Misaki. She was still shaken by Tarou’s recent behavior and attitude. It was later at night, and the couple were in their apartment. “It’s just frustrating. These guys, they’re legally adults. But they still act like such sulky teenagers.” She frowned. It was bothering her how badly affected both of these boys were acting. “I get how you feel. Timmy’s life has been going to shit because of this. Word got out about how he acted, and he got kicked out of ACU.” Justin explained. “Huh?” Misaki looked at him, perplexed. “Yeah, he just texted me. It did not sound pretty. Apparently, there were over two hundred protestors boycotting an eboard meeting because of him.” “Whoa.” The model was not sure how to feel about this. On one hand, it was amazing to see that this many people cared about Tarou, or at least, what Tarou stood for. On another hand, Timmy was only 18, and he is being punished for being inexperienced, rather than narrow-minded. Misaki knew that even though he was immature, Timmy was not a bad person. He just was sheltered, therefore naive. “How’s he taking the end-result?” She looked at Justin, greatly concerned. “Not well. He told me he needed time alone.” Justin sighed, crossing his arms. He wanted to help Timmy, but he did not know what to do either. Whenever he got like this, Timmy would be impossible to reach. The Taiwanese boy would shut himself off from society. It was unpleasant to say the least. “What should we do?” He looked at Misaki, who was equally at a loss. “I think we need to talk to Timmy. And let him know what Tarou is feeling. Even if he is not ready to talk to Tarou, he needs to understand what’s going on.”

A week had passed since Tarou had been kicked off ACU board. The boy had shut himself into his room, only leaving for class. He felt mortified. Being removed from the club was already humiliating. He felt as if all of his hard work was unraveled in just a manner of minutes. Looking at Tarou’s empty bed, the Taiwanese boy felt himself flush with anger. Unable to contain himself, he slammed his fist into the stripped mattress. It bounced slightly as he left a deep impress in the fabric. “Fucking shit.” He cursed underneath his breath, ignoring the stinging in the side of his palm. He just needed to get off some steam. The thought of Tarou, it was concerning, yet aggravating. Why did somebody feel the need to be so controlling over him? He felt like he could not even breathe. Tarou was suffocating him. Ignoring the smell of the rotting pizza boxes piling up on his floor, the boy tried to drift off to sleep, or at least humor the notion: how can anyone sleep when they feel so constantly scared? Suddenly, Timmy’s phone started buzzing, much to the boy’s shock. It was Justin. “Hello?” He answered hesitantly. “You. I need to talk to you.” It was a woman’s voice. Misaki’s to be exact. “Uh…” The boy debated hanging up his phone, but he could not bring himself to. He feared the exact repercussions of angering Justin’s girlfriend. “Tarou’s devastated. I know you don’t care because you’re a heartless son of a bitch, but you need to know that the way you treat people, it needs to change. The fact that his sexuality made you uncomfortable, and on top of that, you treated him like crap when he was one of your closest friends! You pushed him away for a group of next to complete strangers, when he would have done anything for you. Do you not feel any shame for that?”

Timmy was not quite sure how to feel. Misaki, unlike the majority of his friends in the Asian community, was extremely upfront and direct. She did not sugar coat her words or statements. The Taiwanese boy was just taken aback, because of how unused to this treatment he was. “Well?” Misaki pressed again. She was still on the phone with him. “I’m just… I just need time. He’s exhausting. Looking at him, it just brings up a lot of anxiety and stress for me. I can’t feel safe or comfortable. I-I-I-” Timmy felt himself starting to break down into tears. There were too many emotions for him to process. Being around Tarou just made him extremely uncomfortable, and trying to unravel and comprehend everything Timmy was feeling at the thought of him, it was exhausting. “Look, I’m sure you’re not a completely shitty person. But you are being really selfish by not considering how your actions affect those around you. That’s the bottom line for what I’m trying to convey here. I believe that you and Tarou, you guys can make up and work it out. It might take time, even therapy, but I know you guys can do it and salvage your friendship.” Misaki reassured him. Timmy could hear what Misaki was saying, but he was still trying to recompose himself. He’s had more emotional meltdowns in the past two weeks than he has ever had in his entire life. He did not want to make a habit out of this behavior.

“Do you think I was being too harsh on him?” Misaki looked at Justin as she hung up the phone. “Well, you were definitely blunt. And honest.” Justin smirked. “But don’t worry about it too much. Somebody needed to tell him to be more considerate.” He sighed. As much as he cared about Timmy, Justin knew that the Taiwanese boy was old enough to be responsible for his own actions and decisions. He needed to take responsibility for the way he was treating others, or at least the way he was communicating with them. “Well, at least you agree that Timmy’s being a little pussy ass bitch.” Misaki sighed. As a model, she is used to dealing with passive aggressive, fake, and two-faced behavior all the time. Timmy’s attitude reminded her of that, and if she could stop another young adult from becoming like one of those monsters she works with, then the model would do whatever she can to end the vicious cycle. “Well, it looks like it’s getting really late. Let’s go to bed, babe.” Justin yawned, stretching his arms. “Yeah, let’s do it.” She sighed, getting up from their couch, and heading off to their bedroom.

How it is: Chapter 16

“So to begin today’s board meeting, let’s go over the money from our last event.” Alex started. ACU was meeting that same night Valerie and Janice spoke, in a classroom in the College of Arts and Sciences. He turned to Gary, who was ACU’s current treasurer. “Well, looking into our ticket prices, we charged $7 per person. Our attendance was good. We got 300 people, so that’s $2,100. And we promised each club that attended $100. We had 15, so they get $1,500 from us, and that means our club got a profit of $600!” He smiled. Despite Gary’s expression, everyone knew he was trying to avoid the major elephant in the room regarding the event. “But then there’s the additional costs. Facilities requires us to pay for the damages. And with the broken lamps and tables, that means we owe $750.” “Wait, so we lost $150 by doing this event?!” Alice looked shocked. “That’s… not good.” Timmy blurted, before everyone turned to look at him. He could tell that there was an awkward tension between him and his fellow officers at this point. “Well, at least the event was successful in terms of attendance. We can hold this again next year, and it’ll be just as successful, I’m sure.” Alex started. “Except almost every club refuses to re-collaborate with us for this…” Alice pointed out, referring to the feedback responses. The mood felt somber. And then it got worse. “No more ACU! No more ACU!” The officers turned to see a group of students, marching outside of their meeting classroom, holding signs with anti-homophobic messages on them, such as “Born this way” or “It’s the 21st Century, get with the times.” Timmy could feel his stomach sink with guilt at this point. “What the fuck?!” Alex and Holly peered through the classroom door window. They were being boycotted.

“Who the hell are you?!” Alex stormed outside and approached the students. “We are a part of the Gay-Straight Alliance.” A girl stated. “We don’t believe in what your officers stand for. The purpose of your club is to be all inclusive of Asians, yet you guys still think being bisexual is something to be afraid of. It’s disgusting!” She frowned as the other students continued marching in the hallway, holding up their signs and chanting. Alex was stunned speechless. Timmy looked in horror as a lot of the students in the hallway were glaring at him. “Get the fuck out of the hallway! You’re disturbing our meeting! I’m going to call campus security on you!” Alice threatened, grabbing her phone. She started dialing the number, only to be interrupted by one of the protestors. “Oh, they know. And it’s not disrupting your meeting if you’re not intruding on your classroom or physically harming you.” The male student pointed out. “We can get verbally disruptive, but so long as we do nothing to physically harm us, you can’t sue. Trust me, I’m a law student. I know this crap like the back of my hand!” “Shit.” The vice president cursed under her breath, out of options. “What should we do?” Gary looked at Holly and Timmy. He was normally the optimistic one, but in this case, even he was unsure of how to approach this situation. Unfortunately, the protests only got worse. This was only the beginning of a long, horrendous night for ACU’s executive board.

Suddenly, even more students started flooding into the hallway, many of which Timmy recognized. Amongst the crowd included Enya, Sara, and Melissa, as well as Akinori and Mari as well as the rest of the members of JBA, Vicky and her officers from the Modeling Club, the members of SSA, and the students from Tisch. At this point, they were surrounded, trapped, basically none of the ACU members could leave the room or go into the hallway with the sheer amount of protestors in that hall. And they all began to join in the protest. Had they not been there because of him, Timmy would have been amazed to see so many students rally around one cause. But in this case, he was horrified beyond belief. They were here to target him through his club. “Okay, what the fuck do you want from us? An apology?!” Alex roared. He was at his wit’s end. He was expecting today to be a simple meeting with a motivational speech at the end so that his club does not lose morale. Instead, it became his officers fearing for their lives, and the possibility of ACU being dissolved. As ACU’s president, this was a nightmare scenario.

“Alright, what are we going to do?” Holly whimpered, trembling. The girl was scared, exhausted, and starving at this point, having planned to get dinner after the meeting that they were still forced to be in due to the protestors outside. It had been three hours at this point, and everyone in ACU board was hulled up in their room, terrified. “Down with ACU! Down with ACU!” They continued chanting. Timmy was only half-listening to what everyone else was saying at this point. The Taiwanese boy was preoccupied with his own thoughts. He only wanted to be a part of ACU so that he could finally grow up. But in the process of becoming an officer, he managed to not only push away his closest friends, but caused harm to everyone he cared about. Valerie must hate him, especially if she heard that he called her a slut. Tarou must already hate him, because he refused to go to the Asian Cultural Awareness event, and he was okay with allowing so many of his friends from other clubs partake in this protest. And then his friends on ACU. None of them deserved to be put through this torment, especially because of his own dumb, impulsive mistake. “I’m not even sure at this point.” Alex groaned. He was getting fatigued too, from stress and anxiety. He did not want to be known at the president of ACU when it went under. That would be a hard thing to have to live with.

The board members sat in a circle, trying to figure out a proper solution. At this point, it was already midnight. “So we can go out there an apologize as a board?” The event coordinator, a sophomore named Sharon, suggested. “I think that might be the best course of action.” Alex sighed, resigning to any option at this point. The officers got up and quietly walked into the hallway. The protestors all went silent as they saw the entirety of ACU board standing before them. “Hi, everyone. So we all want to apologize for our officer, Timmy’s actions. He was being rash and did not mean what he said. We’re sorry.” Alex took a slight bow. Everyone else on board quickly followed. As he was in mid-bow, Timmy could feel that all of the protestors were glaring at him. “That’s not enough!” Somebody shouted in the crowd. “We don’t care if you apologize as a board. He’s the one who needs to learn a lesson for what he said!” Another protestor agreed. At this point, Alice and Alex looked at one another and exchanged nods, before turning to Timmy. “Timmy, I’m sorry. We’re going to have to ask you to resign from ACU.” Alex sighed, looking genuinely sorry to let go of such a devoted member. Timmy could feel his throat dry up as he tried to speak. The words just came out in croaks. “I understand. And I really am sorry for all of the pain and fear I caused everyone here.” He could feel the tears rolling down his eyes. “The person who made the comment, he’s no longer an officer. We just removed him from our roster, and we again deeply apologize to everyone who was offended by what he said.” Alice declared. All of the protestors, satisfied with the announcement, slowly filed out of the hallway. Following them, ACU’s officers. Timmy stood there, alone in the empty hall, devastated.

How it is: Chapter 13

Spring break was finally over, and tensions were still awkward between the three. “Hey, there’s this cool promo for the upcoming Kingdom Hearts game! Want to go?” Tarou looked at Timmy hopefully. “Sorry, I have an Asian Awareness Event for ACU.” Timmy shook his head. They were going to have an event with all of the Asian organizations, and the logistics behind it were incredibly difficult to manage. Timmy himself was in charge of coordinating with all of the freshmen and sophomore representatives from the other clubs on how to advertise to underclassmen. Even the Japanese Business Association was involved, but Tarou himself did not need to go, because he was the treasurer, not a representative; the club only required presidents, vice presidents, and representatives to be at their events. This was their club’s expectations when it came to event attendance. As for their norm as roommates, it was Tarou excitedly inviting Timmy to things, and Timmy rejecting him in favor of ACU. At least, that’s how Tarou felt. Timmy did feel bad that he could not make time for Tarou, but he also wanted a chance to grow as an individual himself. But how could he get that across to Tarou? Tarou only cared about spending time together.

“Hey, do you have time to talk?” Valerie texted Timmy. The pastry chef was in her room, sitting at her desk. No response. Again. She had been trying to reach out to him during the break, but the Taiwanese boy kept on ignoring her. She felt like he saw her as this freak for her previous attempt at killing herself. Feeling deflated and offended by his attitude towards her, she put down her phone and tossed it onto her bed. She tried to get him off of her mind. Grabbing out her sketchbook, she started doodling. Janice wanted her to create a new dessert menu for April to capture the spring, so she had to start sketching out what she wanted the plating for each dish to look like. With it being April, she definitely wanted something that was a nod to cherry blossoms, while another dish needed something Easter-themed. Blood oranges, meyer lemons, fresh fruits that represent that spring has finally arrived! Just thinking about it, Valerie could not suppress a grin of excitement. With the ideas rolling, she chuckled to herself. At that point, Nothing else beyond conceptualizing these different desserts was even on her mind. She was slowly easing back into her one true love: having the creative freedom of being a pastry chef.

Feeling rather lonely, Tarou decided to take a walk through the city. Misaki was out with Justin in Brooklyn on a date, so that left him with limited options. He would not even entertain the notion of spending time with Timmy, Enya, Sarah, or Melissa. The former was being the source of his frustration, while the latter three would probably try to date rape him. Passing by a restaurant, he noticed the familiar blue shooting star logo printed on the window. “Wish.” He read aloud. “Oh wait, Valerie!” Tarou was immediately reminded of his friend. The restaurant was closed since it was still early in the afternoon, but he figured why not try to meet up with the pastry chef before she had to go to work? He excitedly gave the girl a text. “Hey, are you down to hang sometime?” The model was starting to realize how much he missed her; the girl was usually so consumed with work that she had little to no time for things like a social life, but to Tarou, it was still worth a shot. Within minutes, he got a reply. “Hey, yeah! Want to grab dinner tonight?” She offered. “Sure thing! Where did you want to meet up?” “Come to the restaurant! I’ll prepare something for you! I’m looking to practice some of my new desserts.” Tarou chuckled to himself. This was going to be a great day ahead of him.

In her room, Valerie was excited to receive that text from Tarou. She was sitting alone, watching cat videos on YouTube when her phone buzzed. “Finally, something different than my normal, boring routine.” She sighed in relief, getting up and getting changed. It was almost 2, which meant that she had to get ready for work. “Hm, well Tarou can be my taste tester for the day.” She smiled. Janice wanted her to plan that new menu for the spring, and she figured, why not have Tarou try the dishes along with her normal staff, just so that she can have something to do with her friend. That, and having Tarou, such a positive influence, at the workplace, it would help get her mind off of whatever residual insecurities she had from being a runner-up. Racking through her brains, she recalled the different items she had in mind. “Alright, so I should probably get the ice cream done first, and then after that, the chiffon cake batter.” She listed off, walking out the door. She had a lot of things she needed to prepare, but she had a general idea of what she needed to do and in what order. Being a seasoned pastry chef has taught her how to multitask and delegate well. That was the exact reason why Janice had promoted Valerie to the executive pastry chef position in the first place.

It was at the end of her first semester, when Namie had already announced that she was leaving. It came as a huge shock to Valerie and Jacky, who were just line-level cooks at that point. After a very stressful dinner service, Janice pulled aside Valerie to speak in private. The girl had no idea what to expect. “You wanted to see me?” She was nervous. Being the youngest and most recent hire in the kitchen, Valerie was half-expecting to be fired for some reason. Just thinking about what Janice could possibly want from her, it made her incredibly uneasy throughout the entire night. “Yeah.” The executive chef wore a stoic expression when she looked at the 18 year-old. “How would you like to be promoted to executive pastry chef?” “Huh?” Valerie’s jaw almost dropped at the proposal. “I gave it a lot of thought, and it was not a decision I took lightly. But looking at how you performed on the line, every night, in every service, you have skills far beyond any of the other pastry cooks. On top of that, Namie herself, I asked her who she wanted to succeed her. She said that you could carry out the vision of Wish the best. I trust her judgement as much as I would my own in this regard.” Janice explained. “Oh wow. I’m still in awe right now. This… it’s definitely not what I expected.” Valerie stuttered. She thought she was going to lose her job, not get a promotion. “Will you take the promotion, Valerie?” “Yes!” The girl beamed. “I will be your next executive pastry chef!”

“Alright, so here’s my first new item. It’s a cherry sorbet with yogurt panna cotta, cherry kanten jelly, and yogurt crumble.” Valerie presented the white and red dessert to an impressed Tarou, Mako, and Joseph. “What do you think?” “Presentation-wise, it looks really modern. I like how you used the liquid nitrogen to crumble up the yogurt. It reminds me weirdly of Snow White. Here, I’ll go in for a taste.” He scooped some of the dessert into a spoon and into his mouth. “It’s a bit on the tart side, not going to lie. Maybe just do a vanilla panna cotta instead of the yogurt? I think that the yogurt and cherry, having so much of it across the board is a bit overkill.” He sighed. Tarou is a dessert lover, as evidenced by photos of his childhood, where he was not only overweight, but also pictured wit some sort of pastry or dessert in hand. “Alright, I’ll be sure to change that.” “I have to agree with Tarou there. I thought it was too sour.” Mako and Joseph chimed in. Valerie rolled her eyes.  “Uh, don’t go turning into Butch Valerie, okay? We don’t want to die tonight.” Mako whimpered, hiding behind Joseph comedically. “Or at least kill Joseph so I can take his job.” Valerie just ignored his joke. “Okay, well here’s my next dessert. It’s a blueberry chiffon cake with lemon curd-coconut oil gelato and coconut-blueberry-ginger mousse.” Each of them took a bite. “Okay, that was amazing. The cake was perfect, the gelato, I did not expect to love it, but I loved it. The mousse added moisture back to the cake.” Tarou grinned. “I think maybe more texture, so a coconut crumble, but aside from that, I agree. Everything you put up here, it does not need improvement.” Joseph nodded in agreement. “Thanks.” Valerie smiled. It was a high praise, coming from Janice’s own chef de cuisine.

“Thank you so much for coming over to work and helping me, Tarou. It was a lot of fun.” Valerie beamed. It was the first time in a while that being at work made her so happy. And she owed it all to Tarou. “No problem. I’m honored to be your guinea pig in this case.” The model chuckled graciously. The two were sitting with the rest of the restaurant’s staff, enjoying their family meal together before the dinner service began. Both of them felt like they had a friend in the first time in a while. But this feeling of camaraderie was cut short with time. “Dinner service is starting soon, and as much as I’d love for you to stick around, I’d rather you not see me as a complete bitch. I’ll talk to you later?” She looked at him. “Yeah, for sure! Thanks again for inviting me.” Tarou waved as he left the restaurant. “Well, you better snatch him up. He’s a major hottie.” Daphne giggled. “Yup!” Megan agreed. “I didn’t know you were friends with a model, Val!” Jacky teased. “Well, I never felt the need to mention him to you.” She fought off the urge to blush. “I’m glad that he came over though. I felt like I needed that.” She sighed. “I haven’t seen you smile in the workplace before today. since the whole Warrior Chef debacle. I think this was good for you.” Daphne agreed.

It was late at night, and Tarou had finally made his way back to the dorm. “Hey, is your event planning coming along?” Tarou yawned, stepping into his room. Timmy was in bed, almost ready to go to bed. “It went alright. What did you do today?” He looked over. The model tensed up nervously. “Valerie invited me over to Wish to taste her upcoming dessert menu.” He confessed. “What?” Timmy looked at him, bewildered at his statement. He had this murderous look in his eyes. “What?” Tarou returned, unable to say anything else at this point. He did not want to escalate the situation. “Why would you talk about her in front of me?” “I did not want to lie about what I did today.” Tarou frowned. “I’m sure you’d be more pissed thinking that I went behind your back to see her.” He shrugged. Timmy was not saying anything at that point. “Why are you even mad at me? You’re the one who refused to talk to her! So it’s only obvious that she’d come to me!” Tarou growled angrily. “You know I have a crush on her, and you still go behind my back? Why didn’t you just say no?” Timmy glared at his roommate. “Why do I have to sacrifice my social life to make you happy? That makes zero sense!” Tarou frowned. “It’s not like you were able to hang out with me either!” The Japanese boy had a point. Timmy had been pushing him away with his ACU duties. That retort left Timmy dumbstruck. “Good night. I guess I’ll sleep in the hallway.” Tarou rolled his eyes, grabbing his sheets and pillow.

How it is: Chapter 11

Sundays were typically a day of relaxation for Timmy, Tarou, and Valerie. For the former two’s case, they get brunch together, mostly because brunch meant that Timmy did not have to eat breakfast. But today was different. Timmy could not be around Tarou because he had work for the Asian Cultural Union. So Tarou ate alone that morning. “Man, this blows.” He sat alone in a cafe, reading a book to pass the time. “If I knew he was going to do this to me, I would’ve invited somebody else.” Meanwhile, Timmy was with the other newly elected officers, in the basement of an apartment. “So here’s your lists. Be back by 2PM.” Gary was handing everyone the papers. Their initiation involved a city-wide scavenger hunt for supplies, which would then be used to create posters for upcoming fundraisers and events. “Poster boards and sharpies.” Timmy’s list read. From there, they would have dinner, and finally, drink the night away. Timmy was excited. He was never a part of a club board before, so this was a very new experience for him. Tarou, on the other hand, was very concerned. He did not want Timmy to get another hangover, like in high school.

Valerie was still in her room at this point, feeling rather alone. Her only two close friends were Tarou and Timmy, but she never bothered to make too many other ones, mostly because she was so focused on her work. Suddenly, her phone started ringing. It was Tarou. “Hey, long time, no talk.” “Are you alright?” Tarou sounded worried. “I’m okay, why are you asking?” “Misaki told me about what happened. We’re both really worried.” The Japanese boy started. “Hold up, which ‘we?’” Valerie raised an eyebrow at that comment. “Me and Timmy! He’s been crying all night and he feels like shit about what happened.” “Honestly, Tarou, let’s not talk about Timmy right now.” The pastry chef sighed. The last thing she wanted to talk about was that very straw that broke the camel’s back. “Well, why did you do it?” Tarou started. He wanted to help Valerie get to the bottom of this. “I… felt stressed and trapped. Seeing how I lost on Warrior Chef, on national television, it was mortifying. And the comments, Tarou. Everyone thinks I’m this huge idiot. I feel like a joke whenever I’m cooking on the line.” She could feel tears starting to roll down her face. “Val, you’re an amazing pastry chef. You have always been such a passionate person about this industry. Those people, ignore them. They are just assholes who aren’t worth your time. You’ll prove them all wrong in the end. Remember how I was that fat, unattractive blob? Well, now I’m a model, 6’2”, and everyone else can suck my dick.” That comment got a laugh out of Valerie. “There’s the Val I know. You are a very driven and ambitious person, and I love that about you. But don’t forget to smile and laugh from time to time. I like it when you laugh and smile. It reminds me that you’re happy.”

A much younger Tarou was with Timmy, post prom their senior year. Timmy had taken too many shots on a dare, and was throwing up into a bag. “I swear, I will never drink again.” Timmy groaned as a gravely terrified Tarou helplessly held Timmy up. It was that very moment that made Tarou feel inclined to protect Timmy. He could not bear to see somebody he cared so much about in so much pain. He had to take care of the Taiwanese boy for the rest of the night, until his older brother, Henry, came to pick him up. Hearing that Timmy was going to be put through an initiation, Tarou already knew what to expect: drinking. And since Timmy was so young and impressionable, that was not going to end well. The Japanese boy could easily imagine his best friend, being peer pressured into drinking too much alcohol for his own good, and puking helplessly into somebody’s toilet yet again. It just started to stress him out as he waited anxiously in their room. As much as he tried to, Tarou knew that he could not fall asleep that night. Not until he knew that Timmy was safe. Luckily, Timmy did not drink much during his initiation, and returned having hardly consumed any alcohol.

“Hey, there’s going to be a video game convention coming up! Want to go together?” Tarou looked at Timmy excitedly. “Oh, sorry, I’m going with Gary and Alex from ACU.” Timmy frowned. “Well, there’s also an alternative spring break in Los Angeles! Want to do that?” “Sorry, I’m staying in New York to hang out with Alice and doing some event preparations for ACU.” As much as he tried to be a good sport about it, Tarou just felt hurt. Timmy was being insensitive about the fact that the Japanese model had been rejected by the very same club Timmy was prioritizing over him. In a lot of ways, it made Tarou feel replaced. It felt to Tarou as if ACU rejected him, so Timmy, being a part of the current board, also had to reject him. Tarou started to slowly doubt his own qualifications. “Um, well when will you be free then?” Tarou wondered, getting frustrated yet desperation stained his voice at this point. “I don’t know. Depends on when ACU needs me.” Timmy shrugged, completely indifferent to the Japanese boy’s feelings. The Taiwanese boy was not sure what else to really say in this situation. He just got into ACU, and he wanted to start off on a strong foot for the club that took a chance on him. But at the same time, his own best friend, they just salvaged their relationship, and it looks like it was being challenged yet again. But he felt like he made his bed, and it was high time to sleep in it.

Later that night, Valerie and Tarou were getting dinner together. “I haven’t had proper one on one time with you in so long!” Valerie smiled as the two hugged. “I know! It’s been forever.” He groaned. The two were at one of Valerie’s favorite restaurants, Prune. It was a small, intimate space, where the two sat cozily in the side of the entrance, tucked away from everyone else. “I’m glad that Misaki and Justin saved you though.” Tarou admitted. “But why didn’t you tell me earlier about this?” “I tried, but you were busy and never picked up my calls.” “Oh.” The model felt guilty. He had not been checking his phone recently, mostly because looking at it was stressing him out. The news of the elections, all of his events, and just seeing what felt like all of the Asian community quietly judging him, it was taking a toll on his emotional health. “At the end of the day, I’m just glad you’re here now, to talk to me. The one thing that really kept me from trying again was knowing that I had you as a friend.” Valerie admitted. “Oh.” Tarou did not know what to say to that. The model never had feelings for Valerie beyond platonic ones, and it sounded as if she was confessing to him. “I’m just glad you’re still alive. You’re an incredible person, Valerie, and I like spending time with you. It just reminds me how lucky I am to have such a talented and ambitious friend. Being around you, it makes me feel like I need to step up and do my best as well.” Valerie beamed at Tarou’s statement. Hearing that she had that kind of effect on him, that she essentially motivated him to try harder, it was refreshing to hear. “Anyways, what are your plans for spring break?” He looked at her. “Well, home is not that far away, but I’m planning to do some staging throughout the city.” She smiled.